Leyna Bloom certainly made a splash last year as the first transgender model to appear in on the cover of the SI Swimsuit Issue. But her shoot in Belize last month for the 2022 issue is sure to make waves later this spring. Bloom admits that the recent photo session was an even more powerful experience for her than her rookie appearance last year.
"Last year [photographer Yu Tsai and I] made history together with the cover, and I was so nervous," says Bloom. "So it was just amazing just to come back and reconnect with him, and there was no stress. It was just me in a bikini shooting on a beach in my element. I felt this freedom."
In fact, this sense of freedom inspired some of the actress’s wardrobe choices on the shoot.
More from SwimLife
“Last year I only did one-pieces, which was where I was at in my career, what I wanted to do, and how I wanted to represent myself,” she says. “This year I wanted to take [some clothes] off, but also be very tasteful and pay homage to the beautiful women of color that are in their environment and element, and live in those tropical areas where I’m also from.”
She adds, “I wanted to tell this organic-ness of happiness, being in your own body, loving the body that you’re in, and celebrating your curves. It was about really embracing the ability of how our bodies can transform and the different layers of womanhood.”
Being in Belize also helped Bloom feel connected and more comfortable in her skin. “It was just good to just be around people that look like me,” she says. “[The country] is filled with people having fun and enjoying life to the fullest. I love being around people like that because it humbles me and makes me feel like the world is not just New York City, Paris, and L.A. There are people out there in the world that just want to eat good food, surround themselves with amazing people and go to the beach. I love that lifestyle.”
Beyond Belize, the activist finds transformative power whenever she travels.
“My dad told me when I was a child growing up on the south side of Chicago that I needed my passport,” says Bloom. “So he got me one when I was 16 and said, ‘Now, you can go find yourself.’ I've traveled all around the world, lived in different places and experienced many lifestyles. The more I travel, the more I become a full person.”